Looking up the definition of an unknown word when you read a text is an important part of learning. However, like doing every other task, if you have to switch to do another one, then your performance will decrease at both. This is a well known effect of multitasking.

So I suppose that both the performance of looking up the word and the performance of comprehending the text after the resumption will decrease as well, compared to the performance when you do them separately. This seems to be even more true if you can't understand the word in ~3 seconds, i.e. the definition you found is abstruse. Take this definition of the word ostentatious in Merriam – Webster:

marked by or fond of conspicuous or vainglorious and sometimes pretentious display

Now instead of understanding the initial unknown word, you have three more ones: conspicuous, vainglorious, pretentious. This is crazy!

Anyway, is there any evidence to support the above hypothesis?

(Since you don't need to look up for the meanings of the unknown words when you know 98% of the vocabulary of the text used, I guess at this level your vocabulary coverage is below 98%)


  • @Tsundoku thanks for your edit. I just wonder why you don't think putting the FYI bit in small is better?
    – Ooker
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 14:25
  • 1
    The small script is less readable and therefore less accessible for people with vision deficiencies.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 14:58
  • Is this question about expanding vocabulary in one's native language? For second language learning, people often read in their target language and use a bilingual dictionary (such as a browser pop-up dictionary). Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 1:00
  • 1
    We understand words in a context, and this is especially true for your example, 'ostentatious'. If you look for your quoted word in the learner's dictionary equivalent (learnersdictionary.com), the word is defined with fewer additional vocabulary words (e.g. I as an L1 English speaker also do not have 'vainglorious' in my passive nor active vocabulary, though I can make a rough guess at its meaning by breaking it down part by part). The Learner's Dictionary also provides examples (contexts) which is the real key to understanding the word and meaning in a sentence.
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 8:15
  • 1
    My recommended watching/listening would be youtube.com/watch?v=JbYMZZISPrU and at about 3:20 mark, Prof Arguelles defines Intenstive Reading and Extensive Reading. Also as he explains on the next slide, there are several factors that can affect your reading comprehension. If you watch the whole video, he also mentions research and specific articles about this topic. I'm not sure if it's summarized anywhere in text, though, so you might have to go through the whole video and make notes about the literature references he mentions there.
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 13:26


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.